Division of the Cherokees

In the Cherokee country the situation seemed so hopeless that in February, 1863, the council met on Cowskin Prairie and voted to repudiate the alliance with the Confederate states and to rejoin the North. It also voted to free the slaves and to declare slavery at an end in the Cherokee Nation. This was the same group of men that had made the alliance with the south and so claimed to represent the entire Cherokee people. Nevertheless, Stand Watie and his troops, together with all other forces in the field fighting for the Confederacy, refused to accept this action. It was also, of course, repudiated by the families and the civilian friends of the troops. This faction, still true to the south, promptly declared that it represented the real Cherokee Nation and proceeded to form a government, choosing Stand Watie as principal chief. Other officials, including a national council, or legislative body, were also elected. From this time until the close of the war there were really two Cherokee nations. One, claiming John Ross as its executive head, had left the Confederacy and had again allied itself with the north; the other, with Stand Watie as principal chief, remained loyal to the Confederate states. Each claimed to be the real Cherokee Nation and asserted that the other was only a rebellious minority. The whole confusing situation was complicated by the fact that John Ross was living in Philadelphia in exile, whereas Stand Watie and most other officials of the southern Cherokee government were in the field. Even under field conditions, however, Watie and his colleagues sought to cary on the functions of government. They held legislative sessions in camp under the shelter of a large tent, where they debated measures and enacted laws. it is doubtful, however, if such laws were of much force among even the southern Cherokees.

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This information has been gathered from research done in several areas. Source information is available on the bibliography page. This page has been designed and put together by Ann Maloney, Bartlesville, OK. If you would like to add anything, please contact me at the address below.

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